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Guterres reaffirms Unficyp’s importance but disappointed over lack of confidence building

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-general Antonio Guterres has reaffirmed the importance of Unficyp to peacekeeping in Cyprus in his report circulated to the Security Council late Friday in New York but he highlighted several areas of concern as far as confidence-building was concerned.

He recommended the force’s mandate be renewed for another six months until July 31, 2019.

“As I concluded in my latest report on my good offices, I believe that prospects remain alive for a comprehensive settlement within a foreseeable horizon. I also remain convinced that prior to deploying the full weight of my good offices, the sides should agree on a joint way forward,” he said, adding that he urges the leaders and the guarantor powers to continue their constructive engagement with the United Nations Senior Official Jane Holl Lute and to engage with each other, to this end.

“I reiterate my observations from the good offices report that continued support for a horizon of endless process without result has ended; similarly, that consensus has emerged that the status quo is no longer sustainable,” Guterres said.

While the parties work to determine the best way forward in the context of the consultations, UNFICYP, he said, continues to play an indispensable role in preventing tensions at various levels from escalating and hindering dialogue and the search for a political solution.

But he noted with concern the enhancements to military positions and capabilities that were recorded on both sides during the reporting period, in deliberate breach of the military status quo.

Guterres said he was also concerned by the increase in unauthorised civilian incursions into the buffer zone that cause friction, especially when they occur in close proximity to the opposing forces “and when they are intended to provoke the other side or the United Nations”.

But, in the continued absence of direct contact between the relevant military, police and civilian authorities, UNFICYP plays a crucial role in liaising effectively between the sides and helping resolve issues that could raise tension, he said.

Guterres called on both sides to respect the authority of UNFICYP in the buffer zone and to heed the call of the Security Council to work with the mission on the demarcation of the buffer zone and to implement the 2018 United Nations aide-memoire.

In addition, he encouraged the sides to consider developing, with support from UNFICYP, their own mechanisms for alleviating tensions, be they of a military, police or civilian nature.

The UN chief welcomed the opening of two new crossing points at LefkaAplici/Lefke-Aplıç and Dherynia/Derinya, which inter alia promotes freedom of movement across the island and generates greater opportunities for people-to-people contact, trust-building and economic cooperation, he said.

He commended President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı for seeing this long-awaited confidence-building measure implemented and encouraged them to consider the opening of additional crossing points, including in Nicosia, as advocated by the Nicosia mayors.

“The diminishing hope for a settlement and low levels of trust between the two communities highlighted in recent perception surveys should be a matter of concern to all Cypriots, with the leadership on both sides having the key responsibility to work to overturn these trends,” Guterres said.

“It is of concern also to UNFICYP, given its mandate to facilitate a return to normal conditions and its efforts to create conditions conducive to a lasting settlement. In this regard, UNFICYP will further increase its efforts to bring the two communities together, including beyond Nicosia, and remains ready to support cooperation in priority areas, including those identified through the recent surveys.”

“The positive example of the crossing points notwithstanding, I regret that progress could not be achieved in implementing other confidence-building measures such as the interoperability of mobile phones and the further integration of the two electricity grids, which were agreed by the leaders in 2015.”

He said that while confidence-building measures “cannot and should not be a substitute for genuine and results-oriented negotiations,” he was convinced that prospects for dialogue and for lasting settlement will only be enhanced through such action.

“Implementation of the remaining 2015 confidence-building measures should be possible with the necessary creativity, determination and political will and I urge further work to overcome any technical or other obstacles to this end,” he added.

Guterres also said that in line with the repeated call of the Security Council, including most recently in resolution 2430 (2018), he  was calling on the parties to work with UNFICYP to devise a balanced package of military-confidence building measures, which could include de-mining and further unmanning of positions.

He praised the work of the technical committees in spite of the ups-and-downs in the political process and believes there is significant untapped potential for bi-communal work through the committees.

“I urge the leaders to provide the Committees with the necessary flexibility and support to further intensify their efforts.  Access to religious sites across the island remains a key element for the exercise of freedom of worship as well as for building trust and I continue to urge full access to such sites, in the north and in the south,” he said.

Touching on the issue of hydrocarbons, Guterres repeated that the risk of further tensions in this respect remained.

“In this context, I reiterate that the natural resources found in and around Cyprus should benefit both communities and should provide a strong incentive to find a durable solution to the Cyprus problem,” he said.

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